UFC 161 is in the books from Winnipeg's MTS Centre, and, though the pay-per-view event failed to impress, several fighters walked away from the arena with a nice addition to their win columns.
The card featured Rashad Evans' split-decision victory over Dan Henderson in the main event, while the co-main event saw heavy underdog Stipe Miocic stun Roy Nelson with a dominant unanimous decision win.
Shawn Jordan, Alexis Davis, and Ryan Jimmo were the three other main card fighters to pick up wins, though only Jordan did so in truly impressive fashion; he owned the main card's only finish.
Now that the curtains have closed on another event, let's take a look at what these UFC 161 winners can expect the next time around.
Note: For possible opponents, official UFC fighter rankings are included in parentheses next to name.
Okay, Jake Shields did not fight on the main card, but the former Strikeforce champion's matchup against Tyron Woodley belonged on the main card, at least in theory.
In reality, it failed to live up to expectations, as Shields smothered Woodley, while sneaking in some leg kicks here and there, en route to an awkward split-decision victory.
Regardless of the entertainment level of the fight, the match up (featuring a powerful prospect in Woodley and a former top contender in Shields) was more relevant than Ryan Jimmo vs. Igor Pokrajac and Shawn Jordan vs. Pat Barry, and, thus, Shields' future has been included.
Given the brief description of the fight, it should be apparent that Shields did not exactly impress in his victory tonight, unless you consider avoiding a knockout against Woodley impressive.
Actually, he hasn't exactly been impressive since moving from Strikeforce over to the UFC. He is 3-2 with one no-contest, has earned two victories by way of split decision and he has defeated a top 10 welterweight once out of three opportunities.
And it's arguable that Martin Kampmann, the man Shields defeated in his UFC debut and currently ranked as the No. 7 welterweight, was not a top 10 fighter at 170 pounds at the time, which would make the former Strikeforce champ 0-2 against top 10 welterweights.
However, after a good (but ugly) win, along with the fact he has not lost since 2011, Shields is in line for a shot at another top 10 guy. That guy should be Tarec Saffiedine, the final Strikeforce welterweight champion.
If that seems like too much of a leap for the UFC matchmakers, give Shields top prospect Erick Silva. The winner of that fight certainly makes the leap into the official UFC rankings.
Possible Opponents: Tarec Saffiedine (8), Erick Silva (Unranked)
Jordan entered UFC 161 in a pick 'em fight against Pat Barry, a renowned striker. But Jordan was the one who walked away with the first-round knockout, bludgeoning his opponent with strikes en route to the stoppage at 0:59 of the opening frame.
Neither Jordan nor Barry entered the contest as a top 10 heavyweight; neither were even remotely close to that type of status, really. Still, Jordan has two impressive technical-knockout stoppages in a row now and he is 3-1 overall in the UFC.
It's certainly not time to hand him a top 10 guy, as Barry is hardly a gatekeeper into contention. However, Jordan finds himself with several interesting and fun options moving forward.
Heavyweight Matt Mitrione is coming off a win over Phil De Fries, and The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights veteran loves to bang, giving him something in common with Jordan.
Another match up that works is one placing Jordan against former top prospect Todd Duffee. Now, Duffee is well-known for his power, but his UFC wins have come against questionable competition at best (Read: Duffee has no quality wins whatsoever).
That fight would almost certainly be entertaining, brutal, and fast. And we'd have a better idea about how much to expect from both competitors in the future.
Possible Opponents: Matt Mitrione (Unranked), Todd Duffee (Unranked)
Alexis Davis was supposed to run through Rosi Sexton on the main card of UFC 161, at least according to the odds. However, the heavy favorite failed to impress, though she did walk away with the unanimous-decision nod from the judges.
The biggest factor Davis had going for her entering the UFC was her submission and grappling abilities, and many (myself included) figured Sexton would be tapping out, or passing out, sometime in the opening round. This fight was a mismatch, and everybody knew it.
Well, except for Sexton. The 3:1 underdog managed to escape every submission attempt Davis threw her way, as well as survive a hefty onslaught at the end of the second round. I won't say Sexton revealed a huge hole in Davis' game, but it does make me hedge my expectations.
Davis had the opportunity in her UFC debut, in what was undeniably a mismatch, to prove herself worthy of contention in the women's bantamweight division.
She didn't do that, and I have my doubts as to whether she'll ever be able to hang with the division's elite. As of right now, there are five bantamweights securely ahead of her:
- Ronda Rousey (Champion)
- Cat Zingano
- Sarah Kaufman
- Miesha Tate
- Sara McMann
One could make an argument Liz Carmouche is better, though I tend to think Davis could submit her. I am sure, however, that the five bantamweights listed are better fighters than Davis, and I don't think it's very close.
Still, she's going to have the opportunity to test herself against one of them in her next fight, or at least she should. Sarah Kaufman and Sara McMann meet at the end of August, and the winner should face Davis next for a few reasons: (1) After the five listed fighters, along with Davis and Carmouche, there is a large fall-off in competition and (2) Davis has already defeated several fighters ranked below her.
Still, if the timetable does not work for that fight to happen, Davis could face the winner of Julie Kedzie vs. Germaine de Randamie, though that matchup is not nearly as intriguing.
Possible Opponents: Winner of Sarah Kaufman (2) vs. Sara McMann (4), Winner of Julie Kedzie (8) vs. Germaine de Randamie (9)
Coming off a rather unimpressive, uninspiring victory over Igor Pokrajac, Jimmo finds himself at 2-1 in the UFC. He lost one fight via unanimous decision, won one fight in seven seconds, and then spent 15 minutes utilizing a safe game plan to get back in the win column.
That's not coming from me; Jimmo admitted he put on a lackluster performance in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
However, as unsatisfactory as his win over the aging Pokrajac was, I am almost excited enough about his future matchup possibilities to make up for it.
Jimmo has power in his hands and isn't afraid to throw down, especially following a win, as we saw in his barnburner bout against James Te-Huna. However, picking out the most sensible matchup isn't entirely easy.
From Rafael Cavalcante to Matt Hamill, the UFC has several options to throw at Jimmo. Either of those light heavyweights could work, though Cavalcante is coming off of a loss. Hamill would make sense, but it would hardly be the dream matchup in terms of entertainment. You know what I mean if you watched UFC 130.
However, one name that did not occur to me, yet makes plenty of sense, was suggested by Featured Columnist Scott Harris in his analysis of the Jimmo-Pokrajac contest. That name is Jimi Manuwa, the 13-0 stoppage machine.
Now that I think about it, there is not a single opponent that makes more sense for the Blackzilians fighter than Manuwa. That fight would bring the fireworks, while also catapulting the winner into the top-15 range at light heavyweight.
Possible Opponents: Jimi Manuwa (Unranked), Matt Hamill (Unranked)
Miocic entered UFC 161 a clear underdog against fifth-ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson, but he left the Octagon Saturday night the clear winner. And he's ready for an even bigger test next time out.
That likely sounds rash, considering just nine months ago he was knocked out by Stefan Struve, who currently resides outside the official top-10 rankings for the division.
However, Miocic's performance against Roy Nelson, who holds a knockout win over Struve, in the co-main event of the evening was easily the most impressive of the night, regardless of the fact he failed to earn a stoppage.
Miocic displayed a heightened sense of awareness in the striking game, circling away from Nelson's heavy right hand and steering clear of exchanges that did not explicitly allow him to utilize his reach advantage to its full extent.
The 11-fight veteran also managed to effortlessly put together combinations, battering Nelson and sending the former contender to the brink.
Again, Miocic, like Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum, and Frank Mir before him, was unable to defeat Nelson by any means other than a unanimous decision, but he did so in convincing fashion.
Now, what's next for the promising heavyweight?
While the UFC could choose to bring him along slowly, Miocic appears ready to take a stab at another top-10 guy. Antonio Silva went on one of the more improbable runs up the heavyweight ladder since after losing to Cain Velasquez in his UFC debut. The Brazilian would be a great option for the UFC to match up against Miocic.
Another option would be to place Miocic against the winner of Travis Browne vs. Alistair Overeem. That bout takes place in August.
Possible Opponents: Antonio Silva (4), Winner of Travis Browne (8) vs. Alistair Overeem (6)
Rashad Evans can breathe easy tonight knowing his two-fight losing streak wasn't extended to three against Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 161. Instead, Evans took the first small step back toward the light heavyweight title that was once his.
The odds told us the fight would be close, and it was. In the pick 'em matchup, Evans started off slow, struggling in the first round, before turning up the intensity in the second and third rounds. He did enough to earn the split-decision victory, which was his first victory since January 2012.
Had Henderson won, the longtime veteran would probably be one win away from a title shot against Jon Jones; the two were originally set to meet at UFC 151, which was ultimately canceled.
However, Evans is just two fights removed from a unanimous-decision loss to champion Jones at UFC 145, meaning he probably has a little more work to do than just one fight.
Of course, if he earns a dominant win over the right guy, the UFC could be more willing to grant him a third title shot at the 205-pound mark.
A rematch with Lyoto Machida has long been a fight I've found interesting, but "The Dragon" already has a date with Phil Davis at UFC 163 this August.
Also, Alexander Gustafsson is tied up in a title fight with Jones next, while Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Chael Sonnen already have a fight lined up against one another.
One option for Evans would be a rematch against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who defeated Evans at UFC 156 in one of the biggest upsets of the year. The first fight wasn't that intriguing, however, and Nogueira is dealing with an injury at the moment.
Another option is Gegard Mousasi. By placing him against Evans, the UFC would finally have an opportunity to gauge what Mousasi is truly capable of. Also, Ryan Bader is without a fight, but he sits on the outskirts of the top 10, and Evans won't want to drop down in competition.
That leaves one key name that is yet to be mentioned, one fighter who makes more sense than anyone else to be matched up with Evans next: Glover Teixeira.
Teixeira has been a wrecking ball ever since arriving in the UFC, and he is confident he can top Jon Jones in a title fight. But his UFC victories have come against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Fabio Maldonado, and James Te-Huna, meaning it's about time he fought a truly quality light heavyweight.
Evans is the man for the job. The matchup is an even one, giving both fighters the opportunity to advance into the top contender's spot. I would have trouble denying the winner of that fight a title shot, and, really, it's the only fight that makes sense for either man at this point in time.
Possible Opponent: Glover Teixeira (4)